Indiana State University Newsroom

Contemporary Music Festival features Grammy-nominated artist

October 15, 2014

Indiana State University's 48th Annual Contemporary Music Festival is set for next week, Oct. 22-24, with featured festival guests composer Derek Bermel, the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, pianist Minju Choi and guitarist Derek Johnson.

"This year's festival is really turning out to be exciting for the School of Music. As with any live art event, it's hard to know for sure how things are going to work until the final stretch. But, Derek Bermel's music and personality are so imaginative, energetic and eclectic that he is going to be an excellent guest," said Kurt Fowler, School of Music professor and artistic director for the festival.

Bermel is a Grammy-nominated composer and clarinetist and has been widely hailed for his creativity, theatricality and virtuosity. Described as an "eclectic with wide open ears" by the Toronto Star, Bermel is known for music that is "intricate, witty, clear-spoken, tender and extraordinarily beautiful (and) covers an amazing amount of ground, from the West African rhythms of ‘Dust Dances' to the Bulgarian folk strains of ‘Thracian Echoes,' to the shimmering harmonic splendor of ‘Elixir.'"

"In addition, guest performers Minju Choi and Derek Johnson and the winners of our two composition contests have turned out to be extraordinary additions to the festival," Fowler said. "I'm looking forward to feeling the impact of these concerts and sessions as we go through the week and to watching Derek Bermel share his creative energy with fourth and fifth graders at local schools during the week."

Comprised of 34 professional musicians chosen by audition, the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra annually presents a subscription concert series using a variety of formats including, "Masterworks and Pops." The "Masterworks" concerts draw on a body of musical literature spanning four centuries, and the "Pops" focuses on popular and theatrical genre, all of which are scored for the small orchestra. In addition to presenting the full breadth of chamber orchestra repertoire, the orchestra's subscription concerts feature internationally recognized concert artists as well as superior local talent, present aspiring young soloists and showcase the talents of contemporary composers. The ICO has commissioned several new works and has performed a number of world and American premieres during its 30-year history.

Recently hailed as "positively mesmerizing at the piano" by The Times-Tribune, Choi has performed throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia as a recitalist, soloist and chamber musician. She has appeared as a soloist with the Indianapolis Symphony and Shreveport Symphony, the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic and the Music Academy of the West and Juilliard Orchestras.

Born and raised at the majestic base of the Rocky Mountains in Boulder, Col., Johnson -- a composer, multi-instrumentalist and educator active in the world of contemporary concert music and beyond -- is deeply engaged in the emerging position of the electric guitar in concert music. He is an active as a both a soloist and chamber musician presenting the rich and steadily growing canon of works written specifically for the electric guitar.

Since its inception in 1967, the Contemporary Music Festival has hosted some of the most important composers of contemporary classical music, including 18 Pulitzer Prize winners. It is one of the longest-running contemporary music festivals in the nation. This year's festival is made possible by the Indiana Arts Commission, New Music USA, Sigma Alpha Iota Philanthropies Inc. and WFIU.

Admission to all events is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the School of Music at 812-237-2771.

The music festival schedule is as follows:

Wednesday, Oct. 22
7:30 p.m. concert: Guest Chamber Concert
Featuring Minju Choi, piano and Derek Bermel, clarinet
University Hall Theater

Thursday, Oct.23
9 a.m. session: Masterclasses with Minju Choi, piano
Landini Center for Performing and Fine Arts, Recital Hall

10:30 a.m. concert: Indiana State University faculty, student and guest chamber recital
Landini Center for Performing and Fine Arts, Recital Hall

1 p.m. session: Derek Bermel
Landini Center for Performing and Fine Arts, Room 159

3 p.m. session: ICO Composition contest winner, Michael-Thomas Foumai
Tirey Hall, Tilson Auditorium

4:30 p.m. Open Rehearsal: The Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra
Tirey Hall, Tilson Auditorium

6:30 p.m. concert comments: Kirk Trevor and Guests
Tirey Hall, Tilson Auditorium

7:30 p.m. concert: The Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra
Featuring Derek Johnson, electric guitar
Tirey Hall, Tilson Auditorium

Friday, Oct. 24
9 a.m. session: Masterclasses with Derek Johnson, guitar
Landini Center for Performing and Fine Arts, Room 159

10:30 a.m. concert: Indiana State University faculty, student and guest chamber recital
Landini Center for Performing and Fine Arts, Recital Hall

1:30 p.m. session: Music Now Composers
Landini Center for Performing and Fine Arts, Room 159

3 p.m. concert: Music Now Recital
Landini Center for Performing and Fine Arts, Recital Hall

7:30 p.m. concert: Final Showcase Concert (student ensembles and faculty)
Tirey Hall, Tilson Auditorium


Contact: Kurt Fowler, professor, Indiana State University School of Music, 812-237-2743 or

Media Contact: Libby Roerig, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or